Domaine de Clovallon

10 ha
IGP Haute Vallée de L’Orb
Vin de France
Alix Roque

The Orb River runs for 135 kilometers from the Larzac Causses in Haut-Languedoc down to the Mediterranean Sea. Domaine de Clovallon is situated in the Haute Vallée de L’Orb which refers to a small stretch of the river valley that runs east to west with exposed hillsides and excellent southern exposure. Spanning geological periods from the primary to the quartenary, the Haute Vallée de L’Orb contains virtually every soil type found in France, and many of them are present in Clovallon’s 10 hectares.

To be in the company of Catherine Roque and her daughter Alix, is to be in the company of and feel the energy of passionate farmers. Catherine says that seeing the results of her bio-dynamic farming practices has greatly inspired her. In the vineyard, the Roques use fertilizer from their neighbor’s cows along with a mix of valerian and dolomite. In between the rows, the natural grasses are left to grow and Alix is contemplating buying a few sheep to help with the “mowing”. They already employ the help of their chickens. As non-interventionist winemakers, their wines naturally convey their respect for and delight in their land and vineyards.

Read Alix’s comments Languedoc Vintage Reports

Pinot Noir

The Clovallon vineyard is located outside of the village of Bedarieux in a small valley protected by some imposing dolomite cliffs. The vineyards are planted up to altitudes of 500 meters. Catherine Roque first planted Pinot Noir here in 1989. She has a few different parcels now, grown on different soils with different aspects. The harvesting is done manually and the wines are bottled without fining or filtering whenever possible. The “Domaine” Pinot Noir is produced from younger vines on red sandstone soils. Fermentation is done in vat with indigenous yeasts and no heating. The wine is matured for about six months in three year old barrels before bottling. Sulfur is added only at bottling and in a minimal dose. The Pinot Noir cuvee “Pomarèdes” is a two hectare parcel of 25 year old vines grown on dolomite chalk soils.

Les Aurièges

The cuvée Les Aurièges is a blend of seven grapes. The most important to the blend are Chardonnay, Petit Manseng and Reisling, but also included are Viognier, Roussanne, Clairette and Petite Arvine, a variety native to the Valais in Switzerland. The grapes are all harvested by hand and put whole into a stainless steel tank where they ferment slowly at a low temperature for 30 days. The grapes are then pressed and the press juice is blended with the free run juice and then put into barrels for a year before bottling.

Les Indigènes

The cuvee “Les Indigènes” is produced from a single “clos” of less than a hectare that was planted around two hundred years ago and retains pre-phylloxera vines. As was the custom “back in the day” the vineyard was co-planted with a wide variety of grape types both white and red. Most of the grapes have been identified and include Carignan, Cinsault, Clairette, Grenache, Grenache Blanc. Grenache Gris, Macabeu, Malvasia, Muscat a Petits Grains, Ugni Blanc, Aramon, Terret, and Jacquet. The clos itself sits high above the town of Bedarieux and is accessible only by a narrow lane that winds its way up from the town to the vineyard at the top of the hill. It is hidden from the eye because it is both walled and shielded by fruit trees. To gain entrance to the small vineyard one has to pass through an entrance gate and then a bit further on pass through a doorway framed by a stone arch giving the whole experience a “secret garden” quality. All varieties are co-fermented in old oak foudres using indigenous yeasts and without temperature control. The wine is unfiltered and unfined.

Region: Languedoc-Roussillon

Vineyards of antiquity – if any viticultural region of France has claim to being the oldest, the Greek vineyards around Agde that date to the 5th century BC and the discovery of pre-historic fossils of grapevines in caves outside of Montpellier give the Languedoc quite the hand to play. Geographically, this expansive area reaches from Limoux to Costières de Nîmes linking the appellations of Southwest France with those of the Rhone Valley. It is sandwiched between the Massif Central mountains, the Pyrénées mountains, and the Mediterranean Sea.  Not surprisingly, the varied areas of the Languedoc have strikingly different terroirs with vineyards pushing up against mountain ranges with vines as high as 500 meters, vines planted along the Mediterranean coastal plains and seemingly endless scrubland in between. In addition to a range of terroirs that span geological periods from the primary to the quaternary, and include virtually every soil type found in France, there are significant differences in rainfall, humidity, sun-hours and wind that shape the typicity of the individual vineyards...

Known for producing massive quantities of “vin ordinaire” in the mid nineteenth century, the Languedoc vineyards, like so many others throughout France, were wiped out by phylloxera by the end of the century. Despite the efforts of the government and the growers to form coops in the first half of the 20th century, the vineyards were slow to come back, and it wasn’t until the 1970’s and 1980’s that the Languedoc renaissance came about. Now, it is certainly a breeding ground for alternative minded vintners; the spirit of independence coming probably from the Occitan roots of the region and the fact that the area lagged behind other wine producing regions in receiving recognition for its wines.

It is a region that with few exceptions has significantly less rain fall than other wine producing regions in France, making it easier to farm organically. Furthermore, the Languedoc vintners have turned to both bio-dynamic farming and “natural” winemaking in surprising numbers. These choices have been encouraged by the comradery and solidarity that is evident among the local vintners of each village.